An Arab Spring
It is the working class which offers the only road forward. Only the workers can sweep the tyrants, hereditary or not, from power and build a new society. The Western imperialists, on the other hand, are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
In December last year, a young Tunisian street vendor, driven to despair by corrupt and officious police, committed suicide by self-immolation. He also lit the social tinder that has been accumulating across North Africa and West Asia for over 30 years. Protests against his death escalated into a revolution which put a dictator to flight. After the unrest spread to Egypt and led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in February, tyrants from Morocco to Oman took fright as their subjects were emboldened to seek change for themselves as well.
Since the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, revolts and demonstrations have been widespread but only Muammar Gaddafi has fallen - and that by the murderous hand of Western imperialism rather than the movements that toppled his neighbours. The monarchies have circled the wagons, with Saudi Arabian intervention to crush a popular movement in Bahrain and the Gulf Co-Operation Council deciding to admit Morocco and Jordan. These hereditary tyrants have decided that they're not going anywhere - and especially not into the 21st Century.
The popular uprisings sweeping North Africa and West Asia were sparked by rapidly rising food prices, but the grievances against the sheiks and the presidents-for-life are of long standing. Governments in the Arab world have been marked by corruption, brutality and incompetence for decades, so the people have plenty to revolt against. The revolts, however, have now run up against tyrants who are determined to drown them in blood. Murderous dictators in Libya and Yemen forced the popular movements off course and threaten the same in Syria. Some analysis is therefore required.
The successful revolts in Tunisia and Egypt have much in common with the 1830 and 1848 revolutions in France and the February Revolution in Russia in 1917. Largely spontaneous movements swept from power governments which had long lost all legitimacy, with the entire nation united against them. Their feared apparatus of repression vanished or deserted them.
Behind the joyous unity at the moment of revolution, however, there was an uncomfortable truth. The forces which came together to bring down the tyrant did so for completely opposite reasons. The workers, the peasants and the urban poor who revolted in Tunisia and Egypt did so because they want and need fundamental change in their societies. The bourgeoisies who mobilised against the tyrants and the militaries who deserted them acted in an attempt precisely to prevent such fundamental change. Both Ben Ali and Mubarak had become incitements to popular rage and the oppressed classes in society were beginning to mobilise in ways that threatened the entire capitalist class. The tyrants had become more trouble than they were worth and were sacrificed in order to remove the issue that fuelled the revolutionary movement. In Yemen, Libya and Syria, the respective dictators acted to ensure that at least some of their military forces remain loyal and that they therefore retain the ability to kill their opponents. In doing so, they foreclosed the possibility of a February 1917 moment in these countries. What is posed is the necessity of exactly what has been revealed in the aftermath of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt - the class struggle.
Only the working class has the social power to dislodge the violent dictators of the Arab world without replacing them with one of the imperialists' toadies and only the working class has the organisational potential to pose an alternative to both the dictators and the bourgeoisies for whom they are front men. Working class organisation has been spreading in both Tunisia and Egypt, while the popular revolt in Syria has been marked by major strikes in regional cities. It is the growth and development of the working class movement across the region that provides the hope for real change. The peasants and the urban poor can be pulled in behind the working class if the workers are putting forward a program that can solve all the pressing problems of society - that is, if the workers are more radical, rather than less.
Finally, it is impossible to discuss the Arab Spring without mentioning the role of the US and other Western imperialist countries. Caught on the back foot as dictators they had long supported were overthrown, the Western imperialists have modified their stance somewhat. They now press for reform, though not so consistently that the House of Saud will be disturbed, nor the base for the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain be threatened. In Libya, NATO used massive air power to install a cabal of quislings and opportunists as a compliant replacement for Colonel Gaddafi. Whether their actions are for or against any given government in North Africa or West Asia, however, their motives are the same - to protect their power and keep the subject populations in line.
As already stated, it is the working class which offers the only road forward. Only the workers can sweep the tyrants, hereditary or not, from power and build a new society. The Western imperialists, on the other hand, are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
DOWN WITH THE TYRANTS
IMPERIALISTS OUT OF NORTH AFRICA & WEST ASIA
Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG)
* From the newsletter of Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG) “The Anvil" No 8, December 2011.